Excerpt: 'Assault on Reason'

After the oil embargo of 1973, Nixon secretly threatened a military invasion of the Middle Eastern oil fields. Now Bush has actually done it, keeping his true intentions secret, as Nixon did. After he was driven from office in disgrace, Nixon confided to one of his regular interlocutors: "People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday school, but it's true."

Speaking on national television the night before that 1970 election, Senator Ed Muskie of Maine addressed the real choice confronting the voters: "There are only two kinds of politics. They're not radical and reactionary or conservative and liberal or even Democratic and Republican. There are only the politics of fear and the politics of trust. One says you are encircled by monstrous dangers. Give us power over your freedom so we may protect you. The other says the world is a baffling and hazardous place, but it can be shaped to the will of men.

"Cast your vote," he concluded, "for trust in the ancient traditions of this home for freedom."

The next day, my father was defeated -- defeated by the politics of fear. But his courage in standing for principle made me so proud and inspired me. I really felt that he had won something more important than an election. In his speech that night, he stood the old segregationist slogan on its head and defiantly promised, "The truth shall rise again." I wasn't the only person who heard that promise, nor was I the only one for whom that hope still rings loud and true.

But before such a hope can be realized, we need to understand the implications of fear's new prominence in our democracy. In the following chapter, I will explore why, in an atmosphere of constant fear, the public is more likely to discard reason and turn to leaders who demonstrate dogmatic faith in ideological viewpoints. These new demagogues don't actually offer greater security from danger, but their simplistic and frequently vitriolic beliefs and statements can provide comfort to a fearful society.

Unfortunately, the rise of these leaders serves only to exacerbate the decline of reason and further jeopardize our democracy.

Excerpt reprinted with permission of publisher, The Penguin Press HC. Copyright © 2007 by Al Gore.

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